Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Rewriting reality: My friend “Katie” finally broke up permanently with her soul-sucking druggie boyfriend. Yay! Now she is blaming all of us for not “warning her properly” and leaving her alone. Except short of skywriting it, we all did. Katie refused to listen. Her ex showed up high to a party and picked a fight and was thrown out. The next day, we sat Katie down and told her he was dangerous and not a good guy. Katie said we were unsupportive and jealous. I tried to reach out to Katie several times. Phone calls went unanswered, texts ignored, and she would even turn and walk the other way when she saw me on the street. Another friend even got in contact with her parents, only for Katie to blast her on social media as a “meddling bitch.” Katie finally saw the light after her ex stole and wrecked her car while drunk. She found out when he called her for bail money.
Katie appears to be normal again and getting her life back, but several friends don’t want anything to do with her now, and she is taking it badly. I am tired of the pity parade she is throwing herself and want to tell her to take some responsibility and apologize to people, but I remember the last time I tried to help Katie. Katie and I have been friends for over four years and I don’t want to throw those years away over the aberration of six months, but I don’t know what the right action is here? Do I speak up or shut up?
A: Speak up, speak up, speak up. There is no reason to bite your tongue when you have helpful, constructive—albeit painful—feedback that will aid Katie in making amends for her unkind behavior and in doing things differently in the future. Do your best to keep your tone level and nonjudgmental, and stick to the facts. Don’t say, “This pity party is driving me up the wall,” because that will make it easier for her to cling to her martyr fantasy. Say, “Katie, I appreciate that this breakup was really hard for you, but it’s hard for me to watch you get angry with the rest of us for not warning you about your ex when we both know that’s not true. You remember that after he got thrown out of that party, a group of us sat you down and expressed our concerns to you. Another friend talked to your parents because they were so worried for you, and you called her a ‘meddling bitch.’ You ignored my texts and once even turned away from me in public in order to avoid speaking to me. I know you were going through something painful and difficult at the time, but those things really hurt. I’m here for you, and I want to give you all the help you need as you continue to recover from this relationship, but I’m not going to pretend that nobody warned you about your ex, because we did.”